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This is a great example of a 2nd book in a trilogy, and it does what it does very well. If you’re already a fan of the author or the series, don’t hesitate to pick this up. You’ll reconnect with lots of old friends and meet a few new ones.
To the new reader/listener, you might wonder what the fuss is. Here’s the deal. This is the 2nd volume of a story set in the same world as The Horse Mistress several years later, and many of the same characters appear. You do not have to read the full The Horse Mistress series to enjoy this new trilogy in the making, but you’d get a richer understanding of everything that’s going on.
This fantasy setting is similar to Britain in the time of the Druids if they would have been successful at keeping the Romans at bay. Kathriel, a former slave and prostitute, is determined to lead a slave revolt, and her lovers Ithric (a lion shape shifter) and Favian (an asexual eunuch priest) are there to help her every step of the way.
Does that love combination sound crazy? It shouldn’t. One of the things Steffan excels at writing is a polyamorous trio where the three members feel like equals who absolutely need each other. It’s not as shallow as a fleeting lusty attraction. That is not to say that there aren’t inventive sex scenes because there are (though less than in other volumes), but the sex scenes always serve to move the plot and the characters forward. I have never been able to make that comment about another author, and it still surprises me.
As a second book, the characters spend a lot of time working on their skills in self-defense and for their cover as traveling entertainers. Much time was spent on this, but it didn’t seem like wasted time in the story. Favian had his issued to work through while they were skill building, and later Kathriel went through a dark time of doubt over if she was truly doing the right thing.
At the end of the story, they have rescued one very important slave, and the last scene is fantastic as one to prepare the reader for the next book. It promises to contain the full on uprising that has been promised, with the trio being their best selves as they choose to lead the way.
For a favorite moment in the story, I would say that it was a small one when Favian gave a true priest’s blessing to two urchins in Ryth. On the other side of the story, there was a big lack of Carivel in this one. I don’t think it damaged the story any for not giving her much page time.
Because I listened to the story, I must comment that Gwendolyn Druyor is one of the best narrators I’ve encountered, and I am a voracious listener of audiobooks. She does amazing things with her instrument, from a child’s tone for Favian’s sister, and Favian’s own voice that is stuck at that precipice of thwarted puberty. She even gets to sing in this audiobook for a song that Kathriel performs when she and the boys are doing their traveling show.
I have and will listen to Druyor narrate other projects, but I especially love her work when she’s narrating RA Steffan. It is one of those author/narrator combinations that is a piece of perfection like Kevin Hearne/Luke Daniels or Molly Harper/Amanda Ronconi.
So in the words of an old commercial, “Try it. You’ll like it.” But if you’re new to the story, start with either The Horse Mistress 1 or The Lion Mistress 1 so you don’t get lost.
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